When I talk to provider clients about their marketing strategies, many of them talk about how more of their quality leads are coming through inbound rather than outbound channels, which is consistent with surveys from Gartner and others. As a result, many of them are spending more time thinking about how they present content, both on and off their Websites. The discussion then turns to what are the most effective ways to tell their stories and get across key points to people at different points in the buying cycle. There is no obvious “right” answer for every situation, which is why providers utilize a range of content types include eBooks, blog posts, white papers, SlideShares, videos and infographics.
But the launch of Vox.com this week makes me think there might be another content type to keep an eye on. Vox is the creation of Ezra Klein, a former Washington Post blogger and data journalist in the mold of Nate Silver. Vox is looking for new ways to “explain the news.” When Klein and his team talk about news, they mean more “weighty” topics like the situation in Ukraine, the Affordable Care Act and the GM recall scandal as opposed to the behavior of Lindsey Lohan or Justin Beiber. (Although they do devote a lot of time to Game of Thrones!).
But Vox doesn’t just write traditional articles. Instead, they augment the story with Vox Cards (see the graphic above), a tool inspired by the index cards and highlighters used by some of the staffers when they were in high school to remember important information. I have fond (and not so fond) memories of doing this in preparation for meets at part of the high school Debate Team. The cards are designed to provide context and when you click on a highlighted term, you can jump to a different card in the “stack.” The whole stack concept is also interesting because new cards can be added when there is new information about that topic.
This got me thinking that technology marketers could embrace the card concept as well. One of the hardest thing for marketers is to explain complicated concepts in a way that holds people’s attention. Early in the buying cycle, when buyers are in the “exploration” mode, they are still trying to better understand the scope of their problems and the potential approaches to solving them. They aren’t interested in product-centric materials, but even educational and/or thought leadership content can still be hard to consume. After all, they are likely inundated with content and a lot of it looks and sounds the same. So if something different came along, they would likely be amenable to embracing it, especially if that content type was easier to consume.
In particular, I like the notion of being able to update stacks. From a content creator’s standpoint, this is easier than trying to update a whitepaper or eBook. The individual cards also offer re-usability. The Vox Cards can be tweeted, shared on Facebook and with Google+ circles, but providers would also want to add a button to share on LinkedIn. So when you add a new card, a provider could blog about it and also tweet it.
Marketers could also inject humor into their cards. In the midst of explaining the Affordable Care Act, Vox’s Sarah Kliff added a card about the Individual Mandate. But she used a play on words and talked about “individual man dates” with a hilarious clip from I Love You Man. See the image below. She put this in as the sixth card in the deck, early enough in the sequence before people got bored. As readers of this blog know, there is always, always a reason to link to silly movies! But more seriously, I’d love to hear what marketers think about this concept.